I know there are people who love to garden. They enjoy nurturing seeds, planting bulbs, and planning perennial beds so that gorgeous flowers flourish in every season. My neighbor is one of them. I walk past her home (in the photos above and below) and sigh with envy at her creativity and diligence.
I am not one of those people. While I do love the end result when my garden looks pristine and welcoming, I don’t enjoy doing the work to make it so. Nevertheless, I was forced to become the family gardener when my husband pulled a muscle in his shoulder. The weeds had no pity on his injury and quickly staged a take-over. Can anyone explain to me why weeds are so hearty and fast-growing while their beautiful, cultivated cousins need pampering? Or why the deer and the rabbits ignore the weeds and munch on my plants as if they’re a salad bar?
As I tackled our overgrown garden last week, it occurred to me that the process has some similarities to the way I write. My first drafts are usually an overgrown tangle of words. My strategy is to conquer the blank page and get something down, no matter how bad, and then go back and fix it later. It takes away some of the anxiety if I don’t stop to critique my work as I write. But the day eventually comes when I have to weed out the overgrown mess. Finding weeds in the garden is usually simple: if the roots seem to go down to China, it’s probably a weed. If it pulls out easily—oops! That was probably something expensive. And when I make my first editing pass on my manuscript, it’s easy to find the weeds, especially if I remind myself of the rules of good writing.
I ended up with a large recycling bin full of weeds by the time I finished pulling them, but the garden still looked overgrown. I needed to go back with my shears and trim away some of the good bushes and plants, too. I hate doing that because I’m always afraid I’m going to cut too much and kill the plant. It’s the same with my manuscript. Even after the weeds of poor grammar have been pulled, my beautiful prose sometimes needs to be trimmed. If I’m in an especially critical mood, I can come dangerously close to chopping away too much and ruining it. But it has to be done.
The photos above and below show the results of my gardening efforts. And while I hated to sacrifice writing time for the task, when I finally sat down to write again I was able to tackle some much-needed editing with renewed fervor.
Now what about weeding my spiritual garden? Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches” and “my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” That sounds a lot like gardening and editing, doesn’t it? God is looking for fruit like love, joy, and patience—and not weeds like anger, gossip, and bitterness. If I hope to look like my neighbor’s garden in Jesus’ eyes, I think I have some work to do.